Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bake Sale Brownies

I learned something new this weekend.  You don't check doneness on a brownie the same way you do a cake or cupcake.  Instead, when you stick a toothpick in, there should be pieces (though not streaks) clinging to it.  Or you can check to see that the edges are pulling from the side of the pan.  Probably something everyone already knew, but it was news to me.

This year, to get myself baking more despite the demands of being a working mom, I've taken on the challenge of being "Sunshine Chair."  Among other things, this has evolved to mean bringing in goodies to celebrate birthdays.  I asked everyone who participates what their favorite baked good is.  This month's first birthday celebration asked for brownies.  

I turned to where it all began, America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  See, I credit the ATK with giving me the confidence to bake.  It soon became a bible of sorts, since every single thing I made from it turned out great.  I'll now go so far as to say I'm in a love affair with Cook's Illustrated, and my birthday gift from my husband last year was a subscription to their (very excellent) magazine, Cook's Country.

Bake Shop Brownies.

With a name like that, you already get a sense of how good they'll be.  And they were excellent.  Just the right amount of cake and goo.  The perfect amount of chocolatey yumminess.  And it took roughly the same amount of time it would have taken me to toss together brownies from a box.  And, perhaps you've noticed, I'm not the most adept person in the kitchen.  You can do it too.

These flew at work.  I promised A a taste, but there just wasn't any left after my fairly small group of coworkers got hold of them.   I'm glad I took a taste before bringing them in (you know, to make sure they weren't poisoned.)

The recipe I used is almost identical to the one shared at gas*tron*o*my.  I'll take advantage of her having done the work!

Bake Sale Brownies America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, via gas*tron*o*my
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 Degrees. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil then coat lightly with vegetable oil spray. Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave, stirring often, 1 to 3 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly.

Whisk the sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl until combined. Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in the flour until no streaks remain.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 22 to 27 minutes.

Let cool completely on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, before removing the brownies from the pan using the foil and cutting into squares.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chicken Marsala Wrap

My husband is a big fan of chicken marsala; it's probably the meal I've seen him order most when we go out to eat (not counting his old standby takeout meal of chicken parm sub).  When he heard we were having it in wrap form for dinner, he raised his eyebrow with an "I'm intrigued" look.

This really didn't disappoint.  I'm not as big a fan of chicken marsala as he is and it has to be really good for me to like it, and I liked it a lot.  My four year old LOVED it.   Woo!

I served it with a mixture of sweet potato and regular french fries.  Yum!

Chicken Marsala Wrap from Stephanie Cooks
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup thin sliced white onions
6 oz. white sliced mushrooms
1 cup cooked chicken
1/2 cup marsala wine
4 slices provolone cheese
2 flour tortillas

1- In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms, cooking until soft (about 10 minutes).
2- Add the wine and chicken, allowing the wine to cook down. If the sauce doesn't thicken and coat the mixture turn the heat up until completely coats the mixture.
3- Turn off the heat and divide the chicken mixture over the tortillas. Top with the cheese and wrap tightly, allowing the cheese to sit a couple minutes and melt. Slice and serve hot.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Apple Bread

I know I've mentioned this before, but I'm pretty sure I haven't reviewed it.
As a bread machine recipe, this is so darned easy. All you do is measure everything out, toss it in, press a button, and go about your day.

It's delicious. We bought apple butter while we were at the orchard, and my husband asked what he should put it on other than regular bread, so I suggested that I make apple bread.

And it was delicious. and easy. And used up an apple or two from our haul.

Apple chunk bread from Razzle Dazzle Recipes
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 1/3 cups apples, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups bread flour
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Add ingredients in order, adding apple pieces with liquid ingredients.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Apple Muffins

This year, we once again went apple picking at a local farm. Due to busy schedules, we didn't get there until really late in the season, and though the trees were pretty picked over, there were still lots of great apples to be had. My husband paid and didn't pay any attention to the size of our haul, but I immediately got to baking.

We've been trying as much as possible to bake something for our boys' breakfasts, so that they don't have school provided Cheerios every single day. It hasn't gone as well as planned because of the busyes (the busees? busies?), the lazies, and the overwhelmzies, but we've been successful at home baking more weeks than we've bought. So I decided to turn some of those apples into breakfasts, and found this recipe over at The Girl Who Ate Everything. I went super light on the brown sugar topping, so my muffins don't look nearly as nice and crunchy as hers do, but they were incredibly delicious nonetheless.

I substituted about a cup of natural chunky applesauce for the oil, which may have resulted in a denser muffin than the original, but these are delicious anyway. It made about 20 muffins, so I popped half of them into the freezer in the hopes of saving some for later. These come together really quickly and are totally yummy.

Apple Muffins
Source: Marissa Pinon via
The Girl Who Ate Everything

Cream together:
2 cups sugar (I use 1 1/2 cups)
2 eggs
1 cup oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 cups peeled, cored, diced apples (around 3 apples)
Brown sugar for topping (around 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with paper liners.

Cream together sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon (I never sift and they turn out fine). Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and mix until combined. The batter will be very thick. Add the diced apples.

Fill paper liners almost to the top, about 3/4 of the way full. Sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-24 minutes. Makes 18 muffins.

Goat Cheese, Sweet Onion, Apple, and Brandy Chicken

When I saw this on Sarah's blog, I knew I wanted to make it soon.  Sarah decided she wasn't going to roll the chicken but instead top it, and though I also HATE making stuffed chicken, I went ahead and followed the original stuffed chicken recipe from Cheesecurd in Paradise.

We really liked this, the perfect fall dinner--the flavors blended perfectly.  I served it with Stove Top (yep, Stove Top) and it was a perfect accompaniment.

Goat Cheese, Sweet Onion, Apple, and Brandy Chicken from Cheesecurd in Paradise
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 oz goat cheese
1 medium apple, chopped
1 sweet onion, sliced
1/3 cup brandy
1 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl butter
1 Tbl sugar
Black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Add butter, oil, sugar, apples, onion and brandy to a large skillet. Allow mixture to simmer till liquid is absorbed, and onions are tender. Set aside.

Place chicken breasts into separate plastic bags and pound with a meat mallet till chicken is about 1/4 inch thick. Spread one quarter of the goat cheese on chicken and place 1/4 cup of apple mixture in the center of the chicken. Fold in the sides of the chicken and secure with toothpicks. Place chicken in baking dish and repeat with 3 remaining chicken breasts. Be sure to reserve 1/2 cup of the apple mixture. Season chicken with black pepper. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Top with remaining apple mixture.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cilantro Lime Rice

I served this with Hawaiian Chicken the other night, and since the chicken looked kinda weird, I didn't bother taking the camera out for this.

The rice got rave reviews, despite my habit of never being able to properly cook rice.  My husband, who almost never likes rice as a side dish, said he really liked it.  I really liked it too.

I used brown long grain rice, which may or may not have impacted the cooking time.  I accidentally over boiled so that there wasn't any water covering the rice after the first step, so added more water and I also had to simmer it about 10-15 minutes longer than directed.

Chipotle Cilantro Lime Rice
Servings: 4
1 cup extra long grain rice or basmati rice
1/2 lime, juice of
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
4 tsp vegetable oil
In a small heavy pot, add rice, water, 1 tsp oil and salt. Boil on high until most of the water evaporates. When the water just skims the top of the rice, reduce to low and cover about 15 minutes. Shut off flame and keep covered an additional 5 minute.In a medium bowl, combine chopped cilantro, lime juice, rice and remaining oil and toss until completely mixed.

Hawaiian Chicken

When it comes to cooking, I'm not great at side dishes.  I'm also not great at presentation.  I have no future on a line at a restaurant because when the food I've cooked comes out of the kitchen, it more often than not looks like slop.  This is much more acceptable in a Crockpot meal than in many others, but most everything I cook looks like it came out of a Crockpot.

This is one of those cases in which the food comes out looking terrible, but tastes really good.  At least, it tasted really good to the over 18 crowd.  I'll admit to going a bit heavy handed on the cayenne pepper, but it wasn't bad at all to M and me, but the boys wouldn't eat it and had to have a second meal.

And, just like so many of my favorite meals, this came together really quickly and used ingredients I already had on hand.  Good stuff.

So, feel free to take a look at the picture at Macaroni and Cheesecake because her dinner certainly doesn't look like slop.

Hawaiian Chicken from Macaroni and Cheesecake
Hawaiian Chicken
1 cup crushed pineapple
1 tbsp. honey
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/8-1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. cilantro
2 large chicken breasts, cut in half or 4 smaller chicken breasts
In a medium sized bowl mix together pineapple and all other ingredients except the chicken until combined. Place chicken in the bowl to marinate and refrigerate until ready to use. We marinated for 1 hour, but if you have less time it would be just fine.
After marinating, place chicken & marinade in a large skillet, sprayed with cooking spray. Cook over medium heat for approximately 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through and marinade has reduced just slightly. Serve chicken topped with cooked marinade & garnish with cilantro.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Apple Cheesecake Crumb Bars

I've taken on the role of morale builder upper person this year, which means I've taken on way more responsibility than I probably should have.  One of the jobs includes getting baked goods for birthdays and other celebrations, and I'm taking this as something to get me baking when I'm way too exhausted and would rather plop on the couch (I need goals and motivation to do even the things I love sometimes).

One of my colleagues got married recently, and she listed her favorite dessert as apple crumb cake and dessert, so when this recipe from The Naptime Chef came in my email literally the day before I was planning to make something for her, I knew I had a winner.

I had some real problems making the crust/topping for this recipe, since my 4 cup food processor just wasn't cutting it.  I got fed up and actually went out and bought another one once this was all made.  Other than that, though, this was a really easy, and oh my freaking God delicious recipe.

Since I brought it into work, some of my coworkers ate them with the vanilla ice cream in our work freezer; when we ate them at home, we did a drizzle of caramel on top of the still warm bars.  Heavenly!!

Apple Crumb Cheesecake Bars  Source:  The Naptime Chef


Crust & Topping:
3cups all-purpose flour
1 ½cups light brown sugar
1cup quick-cooking oats
3sticks unsalted butter
1teaspoon Kosher salt
114 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
8ounces cream cheese, softened
2teaspoons vanilla extract
2tablespoons flour
4apples, peeled, cored and chopped
½teaspoon cinnamon
¼teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼teaspoon ground ginger
2tablespoons sugar


1.Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Pour the flour, sugar, oats and salt into a food processor and pulse until crumbs form. Add the butter in large chunks to the food processor until the mixture becomes pebbly and holds shape when pinched.
3. Press 2/3 of the crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 pan and bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden.
4. Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese until soft and pour in the milk until completely smooth. With the mixer on low add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add the vanilla and flour. Set aside.
5. Toss the chopped apples with the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and sugar and set aside.
6. Once the crust is cooled pour the cream cheese mixture evenly on top, followed by the chopped apples. Spread the remaining 1/3 of the crumb mixture on top and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the bars are set and the crumb is lightly golden. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Easy Vegetarian Bean Chili

Now that I'm back at work, I'm once again part of "lunch club," in which one person provides lunch for everyone participating for a whole week.  My husband loves it because he doesn't have to make my lunches (yep, he does that for me!) and I love that I get to do some bigger batch cooking of meals my husband doesn't like.

But when looking for recipes to make, I try to think of something that will reheat well.  Lately, we've all been going with pasta dishes, so I wanted to find something different.  Goggling brought me to Cheap, Healthy, Good and one post in particular, a list of meals with great leftover potential.  Jackpot!  This is a list of recipes that seem perfect for not only this week's lunch club meals but for the future too.

When I said I tend to make things my husband won't eat, I wasn't kidding.  Beans are on his won't eat list, so chili was a natural fit for this week, and when I saw that a Cook's Illustrated (read: "can't fail") recipe was on the list, I went for it.

I probably went a little heavy handed with the chipotle, I only had a can of whole tomatoes, and not nearly enough chicken stock, so it wasn't as "can't fail" as one would think, but a good, solid, chili recipe that comes together really fast.  I really liked the smokey flavor the chipotle added and the vegetarian nature of it makes me feel like it's fairly healthful too.

I have no idea why the picture came out so yellow--I used AWB after all--but I used a mix of small white beans and dark kidney beans.

Easy Vegetarian Bean ChiliServes 4 – 6
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Best 30-Minute Recipe via Cheap, Healthy, Good

CI Note: A combination of beans is better in this (kidney, black, pinto, whatever). Also, don't sub in anything for the pureed diced tomatoes, as the consistency is vital. 

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 (15-ounce) cans beans (see note), rinsed
2-3 teaspoons minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

1) Pour tomatoes and the accompanying juices in a food processor. Pulse 4 or 5 times, until it's kinda chunky.

2) In a large saucepan, combine tomatoes, beans, chipotles, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir and cover. Heat over high until it starts boiling. Drop heat to medium-low and simmer for the time being.

3) In a different large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. When very hot, add onion, chili powder, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir. Saute until onions are soft and a little translucent, around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic. Stir. Saute until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

4) Pour tomato mixture into onion pot. Scrape browned bits with the back of your spoon, if you have 'em. Drop heat to medium-low and cook about 15 minutes, until chili has a more chili-like consistency. Stir occasionally.

5) After 15 minutes, add corn and cilantro. Stir. Heat until corn is warmed through. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Chicken Caprese Sandwiches

I know I've mentioned before how much I love tomato, basil, and mozzarella.  I know I don't need to mention it again.  The last time I tried to make a chicken caprese sandwich, I followed the Rachael Ray recipe from one of her early cookbooks.  At the time, I really liked the recipe, but it was a tough one--the chicken always cooked all wrong--burning in parts and not being cooked in others.  So I pretty much gave up on the idea of a homemade chicken caprese.

Nevertheless, my husband suggested a chicken caprese sandwich for dinner one night, so I went to my friend "The Internet," and found this recipe on Our Family Treat.

Life has been absolutely crazy these days, between two kids, back to work, trying to get my head on straight to clean the house, and adding a new curriculum to teach, so I sometimes don't know which was is up.  This was one of those nights, and my husband ended up making dinner.  He said it was very easy to make.  Knowing my husband as I do, I am certain he followed the recipe exactly as written, although he also mentioned he went light on the rosemary because he doesn't like it.  I also know he pounded the chicken breasts thin, not only so that they cooked faster, but also so that they cooked more evenly.

We both LOVED this.  In fact, even our boys liked it.  Definitely make this one while tomatoes are still sort of in season.

Chicken Caprese Sandwich Source: Our Family Treat

2 large chicken breasts
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese sliced
Fresh Roma tomatoes sliced
Pesto (See our Pesto recipe or you can buy it)
4-5 Ciabatta rolls or Kaiser rolls toasted
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp garlic salt

In a plastic bag marinate the chicken breasts in the olive oil and spices. Be sure to cover evenly.
On an oven safe grill pan, or skillet, grill the chicken on both sides till golden brown. Put into a 325 degree oven for 20 minutes until done (180 degree with a meat thermometer). Let stand for 5 minutes.

On the bread that has been toasted, spread a good layer of pesto on both sides. Slice the chicken on a bias very thin, and place on the roll. Top with the mozzarella and tomato. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Portobello Parmesan

I'm not sure how I found this recipe on Taste of Home Cooking, but was delighted when I saw it originally came from my good friend Lishie's blog, Delish.

We loved this.  At least, the grown ups in the room loved this.  The under 5 crowd was less than enthused.   Whateves, this was delicious and so very easy to put together, they can have chicken nuggets and we'll all be happy.

Definite keeper!!

Portobello Parmesan Delish via Taste of Home Cooking.

8 small OR 4 large portobello mushrooms, wiped, stems removed
olive oil
salt & pepper
3-4 cups marinara sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup shredded parmesan

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a large skillet or grill over medium heat. Brush the portobello caps with the olive oil on both sides. Salt and pepper each cap. Place in the skillet or grill about 5 minutes per side.

In an oiled baking dish, spread 1 cup marinara sauce. Place the mushroom caps, bottom facing up, on the sauce. Ladle more sauce into each cap. Place shredded mozzarella onto each cap, then top with shredded parmesan cheese.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted, bubbling and browned.  Serve with pasta and veggies.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chicken with Tomato Herb Pan Sauce

I'm a fan of Annie's Eats.  In general, she does the same thing I do, which is making other people's recipes, but she does a LOT of it and she takes beautiful photos of it all.  While being a mom of two and a doctor.  In other words, she does the same thing I do, way better, and with much different other demands.

So, when I'm meal planning or looking to make an impressive dessert, her blog is one of the first places I stop.  So I found this recipe in that way.  Annie found it at Cook like a Champion who took it from Bon Appetit.

When you know something has been passed between so many hands, you know you're probably onto something good.  That was definitely the case here.  I really liked the changes Cook like a Champion made, largely because I know I don't have marjoram and wouldn't know what to use in its place.

This was delicious--the whole family enjoyed it, it came together fast, and it's yummy and healthy!  YAY!

Chicken with Tomato Herb Pan Sauce taken from Annie's Eats

For the chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and halved (4 halves total)
Salt and pepper
¾ cup flour
For the sauce:
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 clove garlic, minced
1½ tsp. fresh oregano, minced
½ tsp. sweet paprika
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. olive oil
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (about 12 oz.)
1/3 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Lightly dredge both sides of the chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess.  Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic, oregano, and paprika.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the oregano butter with the olive oil.  Place the chicken breast halves in the skillet and cook until golden brown on each side and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate, cover loosely with foil, and set aside.
Increase the heat to high and add the tomatoes to the skillet.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to char and burst, about 5 minutes.  Add the remaining butter mixture to the pan.  Crush the tomatoes slightly to release their juices and continue stirring until the butter is melted.  Add the wine or broth to the pan, scraping the bottom to loosen the browned bits.  Cook for a minute more until well blended.
Slice the chicken, transfer to serving plates, and top with the pan sauce.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Broccoli Cheddar Soup. It's a staple soup in our home, and the quest for a decent homemade version has been long and arduous.  When I found this version in Food Network Magazine this month, and noticed its use of not only Russet potatoes, but also sweet potatoes, I knew I'd be trying it soon.  See, I love sweet potatoes, while my husband despises them.  If I can find ways to get them into our diets by sneaking or making them taste different, I will surely do it.

One great thing about this is that it came together fast; a perfect fall weeknight meal when some salad and crusty bread is thrown into the mix.  As is typical with me these days, I didn't have everything I needed to make the recipe as written.  Specifically, I didn't have enough chicken broth.  I boozed it up, and used dry white wine (probably about 1/4c) and water to make the full 2 cups.  I think it really contributed to the flavor, but wasn't overwhelming--I could definitely taste the wine in the soup and it was lovely.

I like that the broccoli is added in chunks instead of pureed; I think it makes for a much more attractive and appetizing, not to mention easier, soup.  I wish, however, that I'd had the foresight to chop the broccoli down even smaller to make it more manageable to eat.

Now, for my deception.  Using an immersion blender was imperative here.  I discovered some chunks of sweet potato hadn't been cut all the way down, and made sure they didn't make it into his bowl.  The color of the soup is just like any restaurant Broccoli-cheddar soup I've ever had.  There also seems to be no sweet potato flavor.  In other words, he didn't even notice that there was something unusual in the soup.  He did comment, however, that while it is good, it just doesn't meet his expectations of a delicious restaurant style broccoli cheddar soup.

I don't know about all that, but I found it to be a delicious, hearty soup that was easy to prepare and got some additional veggie goodness in our bellies.  The boys both ate it, although they particularly enjoyed the bread we served with it.  As far as I can tell, it's gluten free and fairly healthful.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup Food Network Magazine October 2011


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • 1/3 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • Croutons, for topping (optional)


Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth, half-and-half, both potatoes, bay leaf, 2 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, put the broccoli in a microwave-safe bowl; add 3 tablespoons water and season with salt. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes; drain.
When the potatoes are tender, remove the bay leaf from the soup and transfer the soup to a blender. Puree until smooth, leaving the filler cap slightly open to let steam escape (or puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender). Return the soup to the pot and thin with water, if necessary. Return to a simmer over medium-low heat; stir in the broccoli and season with salt and pepper.
Add the cheese and stir until melted. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with croutons, if desired.
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